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Articles September 2012 Issue

Plum Crazy?

Science finds more reasons to love stone fruits.

Not that most of us need convincing to indulge in stone fruits (“drupes”) such as plums, nectarines and peaches, but new Texas A&M research suggests compounds in these delicious fruits may fight metabolic syndrome. Scientists found four major types of antioxidant phenols in the fruits that attack the syndrome on “different fronts,” including via fat cells, arterial health and inflammation. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms such as obesity and hypertension that predisposes patients to heart disease and diabetes.

“Each of these stone fruits contain similar phenolic groups but in differing proportions, so all of them are a good source of health-promoting compounds and may complement each other,” commented lead researcher Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, PhD. The findings were presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in August.

Plums are in season from May through October, with Japanese varieties first on the market from May and peaking in August followed by European varieties in the fall. There are more than 2,000 varieties of plums, with more than 100 available in the US.

One plum, with only about 30 calories, contains more than 10% of the Daily Value of vitamin C, plus vitamin K, vitamin A, fiber and potassium. Research has shown that plums and prunes (dried plums) can help increase the body’s ability to absorb iron from foods.

When shopping for plums, look for fruits that are slightly soft at the tip and yield to gentle pressure. A slight whitish “bloom” on the peel indicates a plum has not been overhandled. Unripe plums will ripen at home at room temperature, but those that are most hard and immature will probably never develop for ideal eating. Ripe plums can be held in the refrigerator for a few days. They can also be frozen, but remove the pits first for best flavor.

Austrian research has found that the antioxidant content of fruits such as plums increases as they ripen, almost to the point of being overripe.

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